André and Me – A moment between worlds with Portland’s RAC

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Photo courtesy of Nashville Nights

It’s 10 minutes before the interview and my phone rings to my dismay. The basement of Winkenwerder was not where I wanted to talk shop with one of my favorite musicians. But there I stood, with a piece of TP in one hand and a buzzing cell phone in the other.

“Shit,” I mutter – fully intending my pun as I answer the Texas caller ID.

“Hey there!”

“Hi, I’m calling for your interview with André. I know it’s not for another ten minutes but he’s ready now and we’d love to get started.”

“Of course!” I grin as it starts to feel real. Standing with my pants half-pulled up, I remember my situation. “Erm… Can I call you back in 5 minutes? I just need to get everything set up.”

“Yeah sure. I’ll call you then.” Click.

I fasten my belt, swing my pack over my shoulder and head out into the hallway – frantic to find a spot to sit in relative silence. Behind a giant stump that looks like it was cut from a forest a millennia ago, I slump over and attempt to set up my audio recording equipment before my phone rings again.

“Ready?” He asks.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I respond with slight hesitation as my recording fails to start. A familiar voice is heard on the line and some light indie rock can be heard in the background.

It’s about time Portland grew up

From his home studio in Portland, Oregon, André Anjos talks about the last six years of his life living in the eccentric city. “I feel like a local,” he states first off, “and I love it here.” He goes on to explain that the city has been changing “like crazy” just like the Bay Area and Seattle. Referencing a recent trend in real-estate listings, he laughs about seeing “No California”-stickers, “as if that would dissuade people from moving here.”

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“People are complaining,” he goes on to mention. “They’re saying that a lot of things that made Portland unique is getting lost.” Although he really has appreciated the “amazing food” and “interesting things” in the city, André wants Portland to grow up a bit. Hesitating, he puts off the rest of his answer – stating that he might have a better opinion in a couple of years.

Portland, prisons and college

“Everything post-college has been here in Portland,” André goes on to say. “Well, sort of. I spend more time at the airport than at home.” We laugh.

“A couple of friends moved here.” His buddy, Karl Kling, had a girlfriend out here in college and they had a place to move. Rent was “cheap” – at the time it was $500 a month. Coming from a life at Greenville College in Illinois, this was quite the change.

“Three thousand people in the town were prison inmates and they counted that as part of the population,” he laughs. “It was a very small town and a dry town!” He had never heard of something like that before, especially since coming from Portugal, where the drinking age is fourteen.

When asked about his major, André couldn’t help but make a few jokes. “I got a music business degree, which is hilarious.” Greenville college was in the middle of nowhere and the Portugal native decided to learn about music from a bunch of old Illinoisans. “Maybe some basic knowledge came in handy,” he continues, trying to give some credit to his education. “But the music industry changes every year and you’re learning information that’s five years old in college.”

So, in school, he learned how the music industry used to work. “I guess you could say I earned a music business history major,” we laugh again.

The idea of RAC, what happened to the collective

“From the beginning, we wanted to be a group of people that all do remixes under one name,” he explained. “We could gather some talent and do it as a group as opposed to an individual person doing on your own.”

“How did that work out?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“You know when you’re in a group project and you’re the one person doing it all?” He asked rhetorically. “Well, I was doing it all. A lot of people had jobs and real obligations – I was just in school.” So André took over the project and started doing everything under the same name, Remix Artist Collective.

“The name stuck and I kind of ignored it. When I started touring, I brought Karl who started DJing with me.” The definition of the name, he went on to explain had started changing during those tours until it stopped meaning anything. As he moved into producing original music, it ceased to make any sense but, “at one point,” he explains, “I decided that I spent six years of my life building this brand… I’m just gonna stick with it.”

“It’s called RAC,” he concludes. “It doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t matter.”

Now that things have developed and he’s become a writer of original music, the name has unintentionally become a point of confusion. He’s now writing with other people, covering tracks with his wife and has even produced original music for the HBO series, Entourage.

Independence, album woes and staying relevant

"I feel like I put out a track every week,” André says. “A lot are remixes but… it’s just easier to focus on a song at a time and just put [that one] out.” Since recording his album in 2011 and having to wait three years for the record label to approve the content for legal and distribution reasons, RAC has taken a step back from the traditional record deal.

“After the album came out, I didn’t really feel like it was relevant to do that in 2015,” he says of the album’s long release schedule. As of June 2015, a month after getting out of his contract, André has been dropping music at least once a month with a staggered release schedule. From single tracks to lyric videos, these regular releases are his way of “keeping [his] head above the noise.”

“There’s a lot of amazing work, and a lot of mediocre work out there… [the internet] is so incredibly saturated [with it]. Fortunately, a thing I got used to with remixes is getting to do things very quickly.” Despite the constant work, André is satisfied with this new methodology as, “with a waiting period that was once three years is now two months at the most.”

When discussing the success of his album, he reminisced but responded contritely, “the music doesn’t represent who I am anymore. You have three years of built-up expectations and when they don’t go in [the way you want], it’s so frustrating.”

Making music, with new singles and successes

Last month’s single, “3AM feat. Katie Herzig” (embedded below) has been quite the success – garnering almost half a million plays in the weeks since its release. When I asked him how he felt about this, André answered estatically, “I feel like we’re gaining momentum and people are catching on to what we’re doing. We compare numbers a lot since we’re doing things independently. Keeping my eye on it [lets me] make sure things are going well. I think it’s been a very fun game to get into that that, [especially] in these last couple of tracks.”

With all the data analysis that he and his team had been doing, I followed up by asking why he still makes music. Despite a somewhat-programmatic release schedule and metrics to understand their success, RAC manages to keep the soul in the music.

“So who do you make music for then?” I asked, “Your numbers? Your fans? Yourself?”

“Myself,” André answered, “Absolutely.” Stating that he continues to make music “purely for [his] own entertainment,” the man just wants to be happy with what he does. As it turns out a big part of him being happy is making others happy!

“I’m not just stroking my beard, happily listening to my own music,” he says. “For one, I don’t have a beard and I see it as kind of a game and it’s my job and it’s something to have fun with.” His goal is to “keep going” as he’s noticed the music is “creating an outlet for this weird desire [to] ‘have to make music’ and want[ing] to keep that going.”

“Part of growth is being heard and having people listen to your music,” he says. For André it seems that this is the core of the game. “Artists that say it doesn’t affect them are lying,” he continues. “If a lot of people are stoked about your song, it really affects you.”

In regards to his fans, he said “it feels good when sometimes people will leave really kind messages like, ‘hey this helped me out during this time of my life’.” He hears me smile through the phone and continues, “I don’t sit down and write songs to help people in that way, but it’s a really nice validation.”

Building a synth and making some music

In addition to his solo work as RAC, André still finds time to record music with his wife, Liz. “There was this goal on the surface to release [them] as a free track to celebrate when we hit milestones on social media,” he says of the covers (check them out on soundcloud). “There’s obviously a selfish side of it and it’s a fun project.” Aside from the benefits of recording for fun, he also has been grateful for the opportunity to be creative in a way he hadn’t tried before. “Working with Liz is also really fun,” he sums up, “even though we live together, we rarely collaborate.”

In his home studio in Portland, the electronic musician mostly uses physical instruments, “whether that’s a synth, drum machine, guitar, bass… I have a lot of toys and I just work [here],” he says. “It’s a really nice balance with the touring and, when I’m not touring, it’s good to be home.”

When it comes to his own production, André just “feels more comfortable” playing an instrument rather than programming music on the computer. “You can create exclusive items that you just can’t make on a computer since most people don’t have [the same] instrument,” he explains. “You create a unique sound that’s impossible to replicate.”

“The problem is that I can’t work when I’m travelling,” he continues. “I can’t fix a mix or something when I’m on the road, which can be frustrating.” Despite his long time spent on the road, the remix artist still finds time to come home and write original music on his modular synthesizer. “I’m a building a modular synth,” he says excitedly. “It started with one box and now I have five. It’s so much fun and it’s so nerdy!”

Yet the synthesizer has been more than a toy in André’s creative process. With it’s inspirational aesthetic and pleasantly unique sound, the modular synth has become a “magical machine”:

You turn the lights on and it’s blinking. It gets really heady sometimes when I have to think about every wire. But it creates a situation where a lot of unexpected things can happen. Most of the time they’re very positive things, like happy accidents – you can stumble upon a sound. It’s a magical machine. There’s so much potential that sometimes it’s too much… but it’s great because of that.

After geeking out about gear, it’s easy to become existential in describing the sound of an instrument. So André concludes, “I’m very into the studio and that whole process. I’d say I probably enjoy recording music just as much as I do writing it.”

Inspiration and dedication, some advice for new artists

The PR rep’s voice came over the line, “Hey guys. We’re running kind of behind so this could be the last question or so.” Looking at my notes, I grew excited as I read, “Which relatively new musicians have you been listening to or enjoying lately?”

Immediately, André answered, “A decent amount of people know Pomo. He’s a guy from Montreal and it’s just a breath of fresh air compared to the EDM, droning military march stuff. I really like it. His remixes are really top notch and I always check them out and add them to our set.”

I followed up by asking what advice he could give new electronic artists. He answered:

I think it’s important to learn how a lot of these sounds are created, specifically for electronic artists. If you learn the basics and understand synthesis, it’s going to go a long way. You can’t do the production tricks if you don’t know it. Learn the basics of recording and avoid presets. They are an easy way to get a specific sound that sounds good but then there’s everybody else and they’re using the same thing. If you can distance yourself from that and try creating sounds from scratch, [you’ll find] you’ll especially know what you’re doing.

Another line could be heard coming into the phone call and André began to quickly finish up. “Musicians need to beat themselves,“ he said. "You don’t want to be somebody else since they already exist. You can be inspired by other people, but try to do something that, personally, you’d be.”

Be sure to catch RAC as he starts up his tour again, this week! André will be performing with Big Data at Seattle’s Showbox SoDo on November, 20th – expect hours of awesome from openers, Karl Kling and Filous.

As always, check back at the Rainy Blawg for a show preview/review from yours truly as the end of November draws ever nearer!

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DJ Desman

Quick, what’s cool? JUNGLE

We should kick it with Jungle.

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So these guys are not what I usually cover, lots like Doja Cat. They’re
funky and psychedelic and have this element of retro, disco dance pop, but they’ve
got soul. This isn’t all natural acoustic, it’s very artificial, but they’ve
got these reminiscent elements of other funky co cats like Electric Light Orchesta,
MGMT,
the Bee Gees, and maybe even Prince.

It’s hard to categorize. They are hard to put into a box. What do I want to say? Indie electro R&B? Modern
soul? I don’t you know, you decide for yourself.

“Time,” a track that I particularly like on
their 12-track debut album, Jungle
(which released just this past July), is on the lighter dance pop side of their
album.  I think their best part is their
chorus of  “Say it again/Just hold on tight/Don’t let in,
yeah/I’ll run alright/Don’t let me/Oh just let it out,” but not for their
lyrical creativity. This song, like every other song on the radio is computer
generated, filled to the brim with pinched falsettos, slap bass, and crazy
instrumentals. It’s euphoric and filled with funk.

These guys also just make great music videos!

And for the most part, that’s how a lot of this album works. I’m not
getting the sense that these guys really dig their fake horns and electric
funk. They like getting people to want to get up and groove. And  I dig that. What they do lack, however, is a
sense of creativity. Lyrically, it’s very repetitive, and even composition
wise, “Busy Earning” is so similar to “Time,” as is “The Heat” and “Platoon.”
It gets to all be the same.

Is this bad? Yes and no. Jungle is new duo, made up of childhood friends, Tom
McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. They’ve been kicking it since they were nine
years old. I can sense the chemistry, and I’m glad the two are working
together, I like their vibe. Creatively, they have a long way to go,  but they’re old enough producers to realize
that the debut album that they do have is solid and work their way up

We do get a little something different when we hit tracks like “Drops” and “Julia.”
There’s some more bass in there, and instead of just dance funk, it’s gets a
little soulful and mournful. I love when “Drops” hits, “I’ve been loving you
too long.” I’m getting some tastes of Paolo
Nutini
-esque blues in there, and I like the turn from dance pop to some
serious soul.

“Julia,” is the best track on their debut in my opinion and I think a track
they put some serious effort it. I love the overlaying, faded vocals, that
goddamn organ playing in the background, and the rhythm they’ve got going. It’s
a little darker, it isn’t really a song to groove to, but it’s a lovesick,
lovelorn track where I can fully see where these guys are going. They’ve can do
downbeat jazz.

And their video, choreographically is amazing. These guys like modern
dance. Check it.

They’re disco, and they’re not really disco. They’re funk and soul and
electric. They’re party music at times, and then at other times, they’re jams
you have existential conversations to. They start their South American tour soon and I’m bitter I won’t be in Santiago, Chile jamming out, but I hope when they release some new grooves, I’ll be with them live.

Check out their album on Spotify. It’s a solid debut, they’re solid
Londoners. And they make solid music videos, which is what’s important, right?

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Ariana Rivera



Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Show Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield Rocks the Croc

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An audience member stares wistfully at a television screen, modified to display “Evening Bell”

Above the restless crowd, Evening Bell entered the stage. Each of them brandishing their instrument of expertise, duo Hart Kingsbery and Caitlin Sherman stood confidently in front of drummer Jason Merculief and bassist Aaron Harmonson. The band picked up as the lights came on, harmonies ringing out over the Crocodile’s killer sound system!

Simple and sweet, the singers took turns leading us in song. Kingsbery’s guitar pierced through the air like jet streams in a clear blue sky while Sherman’s voice blended into the tone of her keyboard. The combination of her instrument and vocals created a clear contrast to the guitar’s distinct wavy-ness. Meanwhile, the keyboard’s piano-like tone generated a Jazzy demeanor above the Country-Western vibe.

Each song would begin with a guitar or piano riff, the sound of which would result in a cheer from the audience as they recognized their favorite tracks from this local band. While we sang and danced along to the frontmen, Merculief and Harmonson rocked out subtly from behind. Harmonson sported a cowboy hat and a big red bow tie, he smiled as his rhythms echoed through the small concert venue. Throughout the set, Merculief moved us through the various styles of music. His most amazing moments, however, stood out during keyboard and guitar solos. His beats reverberated below the dynamic synths and riffs, providing a solid basis for Sherman and her voice. Long instrumental moments also showcased the drums as they shifted in and out of focus.

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Evening Bell plays another hometown country duet

“Thank you so much for listening,” Sherman closed the show through a smile. “That was fun!” Kingsbury added. We cheered as they grabbed their television and left the stage.

As we waited for the headliner, the fog grew thicker and thicker. Seen through the haze, Jessica Lea Mayfield grabbed one of her five guitars and plugged it into her smorgasbord of pedals. Reverberating and intense, her guitar joined in with the bass until the entire band built to intensity. All the while, drummer Matt Martin, wearing a tattered collared shirt and drums, remained relaxed yet determined.

As the instrument turned up, Jesse Newport’s bass became distorted under Mayfield’s ever present guitar – her arpeggios ringing out between lamenting lyrics. They drew us in with inconsistent rhythm, possessing the presence of a poetry slam and the power of an arena show. Beneath her echoing voice, the three musicians rocked out to every chord progression under the sun.  

Their tone and musical expertise fit Seattle’s sound like an old glass slipper – their presentation like Nirvana if Kurt Cobain owned a pair of sparkly boots. 

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Jessica Lea Mayfield “and band” start off with a bang!

They played three songs in a row, each leading straight into the next. As a song would end the drums and bass would slow down on Mayfield’s cue. Turning around, she would play in tandem with her band – all three of them looking intensely at one another. As the last song fell to a silence, Martin and Newport quietly exited the stage.

“I’m gonna do a song by myself. It’s called ‘Party Drugs.’ It’s off my new record.” After explaining the origin to the song, she started back into the entrancing mix of guitar and vocals – sans bass and drums. A little more controlled, the solo song showed off Mayfield’s artistic control, manipulating the reverberation of her voice and guitar, relying on every resonating note to carry into the next.

After that song, the band joined Mayfield back on stage. She complimented the gentleman in the front for being so polite and, taking off her jacket and adorning another guitar, she amazed us as the lights reflected off her guitar strap and bright green eyes. Looking towards the audience, she saw through us all as we watched her emotions fly out above us.

After playing a new song called, “Seeing Stars,” Mayfield introduced Jesse Newport as her husband. As we cooed and Jesse picked up his guitar, Jessica lifted her head slightly to introduce the next song, “this is the first screwed up love song I wrote about him.” We laughed and cheered as we breathed the whiffs of red bull and vodka – a staple scent of the Crocodile dance floor. The lighting changed and Jessica’s melancholy lyrics picked up again with a song she couldn’t help but smile about. The two guitars layered themselves perfectly as Mayfield’s slow strokes accented Newport’s quick and rhythmic strums. “You’ve got a stranglehold on my heart,” she sang as she cleverly depicted the hardships of new relationships and their unforeseeable potential.

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Grunge rock and sparkles. Jessica’s studded strap shines brightly through the haze

In the front row, Jessica pointed out a couple who she thought was being particularly cute. “Looks like you had a good valentines day,” she said. “I’m gonna ruin that,” she quickly added. After our laughs subsided, she explained the meaning of her next song. “I spent some time trying to plan my death but then I wondered if I had enough time to do all the things I needed to do around the house first.” We laughed. “And that was enough time to write down a song about how ridiculous that was”

The music grew louder and the audience’s smiling and blushing diminished to head bobbing. The husband and wife stepped closer to one another, their instruments almost touching as they continued to play some “bummer shit,” as Mayfield later described. She played “I Can’t Lie To You” with her distorted black guitar. The guitar and bass shouted every note as each doubled the melody. The band broke into our consciousness with their impeccable song writing ability – each moment providing a dramatic contrast in sound from the last. The drums provided a segue between these distinct moments with their ability to move from loud to quiet with just one gradual cymbal.

After the song appeared to end – a short applause had followed – Jessica’s guitar tears through the speakers. The music picks up and continues until we’re begging for more. Unfortunately, there was only time for one more. The band played their last song, “No Fun” – their musical ability never faltering. The guitar seemed to have control over bass and drums, as each remained in sync with the Mayfield’s rhythm. The song ended cutely and cleanly as the musical married couple kissed during the last guitar solo.

In a true Valentine’s Day spirit, Jessica invited the cute couple she had previously called out up onto the stage. Nervously, the drunk audience members pulled themselves out of the crowed and joined Mayfield in the spotlight. She asked if they knew the words and the women nodded furiously in response. As the song began, however, it became obvious that her date may have forgotten a few lyrics. Mouth closed, he danced silently around the stage – at one point approaching the drums with a smirk, only to walk away sheepishly as the song subsided.

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Two excited audience members dance and sing along on stage for the encore performance

Through our laughs, Jessica closed the show. She even stayed around for a bit to drink with the crowd! Be sure to check out her website for new music, tour updates, and more!

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DJ Desman

Ani Joon Review: G-Eazy show & backstage Blizzy interview in Seattle!

Our very own Ani Joon attends a show, takes some pictures, and chats up a drummer. Check out her vlog-tastic review (above) and snaps below:

Image set by Ania Kamkar

HAPPY SoX DAY: Chance the Rapper & Social Experiment’s Short Film

here is a present: an excuse to take a quick break from studying and watch this 11 minute film by Austin Vesley.

featuring all my favorites, including Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, Stix, Nate Fox and Macie Stewart, the short film details behind the scenes of the Social Experiment Tour. 

have a look:

i love seeing the guys (and Macie) open up, even if its on camera. the laughter and camaraderie makes you feel welcomed as a bystander and the fun and vibrant footage of their tour makes you feel like you’re actually with them.

i don’t know about you, but this made me laugh out loud. happy SoX day 🙂

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-gnovs